Sunday, March 06, 2005

Fast Company's Creativity Issue

This is a few month's old, but still worth linking to, I think.

Fast Company's December 2004 issue is on creativity and innovative companies. There's an in-depth and somewhat inevitable article on Microsoft Research, What Money Can't Buy: the gist seems to be that they spend more time and money being defensive, and innovating (i.e., sticking new features onto) their existing products rather than figuring out new arenas to conquer. That's a company that clearly delineates between research (the "creative" folks) and ordinary folks. They're likened to the telecoms in the 1990s, and it does sound a bit like the AT&T I remember -- who never wanted to develop on any idea not guaranteed to be an instant billion dollar market.

And there's a surprising, charming piece about W.L. Gore, the company that made Goretex and apparently Glide dental floss among other stupendous and profitable items. They, in contrast, have a non-hierarchical, team-based, inclusive approach to innovation. And, I'd add, a lot of equally clever marketing folks, who manage to break them into areas that are truly new for them, not just extensions of existing brands. Even into areas already flooded with big names. The article describes this difficulty with a few anecdotes about viral marketing among other tricks. They sound like a 3M, only even better.

Finally, a study on corporate creativity that debunks some myths about what makes people and cultures innovative (and here I've rewritten her myths to make them truths):

  1. Creativity [Doesn't Only] Come From Creative Types
  2. Money Is [Not] a Creativity Motivator
  3. Time Pressure [Doesn't] Fuel Creativity
  4. Fear [Does Not] Force Breakthroughs
  5. Competition [Doesn't] Beat Collaboration
  6. A Streamlined Organization Is [Not Necessarily] a Creative Organization

My favorite quote: "One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity."


KeithHandy said...


Next they're going to tell us creativity can't be beaten or tortured out of people.

John Styles said...

Oh God, AT&T R&D, I could tell you stories from my days working for AT&T...
Suffice it to say that our 60 person unit had an R&D team, our 1000 person unit had 2 competing R&D teams (the Smalltalk let it all hang out gang and the 'building our own case tall based on JSD' fascist bastard nutter gang), then of course there was Bell Labs...

None of whom talked to each other of course.